Courses: First-Year Seminars

Many First-Year Seminars are offered every Fall semester for incoming students.  All of our First-Year Seminar courses are open to every incoming, first-year student,* though students who wish to enroll in RHET 195 should follow guidelines regarding Directed Self-Placement.  Transfer students may enroll in one of our Transfer-Year Seminars.  RHET 195 and RHET 295 courses are typically the only First-Year Seminar classes offered in Spring semesters.

In addition, students should know that our RHET 195 Writing courses are equivalent to RHET 110 Written Composition I, and do not by themselves complete the Core A2 requirement; they are a prerequisite for RHET 120 Written Communication II or any equivalents.

Every incoming student may only enroll in one First-Year Seminar, so that this opportunity is available to all.  Those who inadvertently enroll in multiple FYS courses will be asked to remove one from their schedule and enroll in a different available course.  Questions can be addressed to the Associate Dean for Arts & Humanities, Jeffrey Paris.

(* Eligible students may sometimes be prevented from registering online in a First-Year Seminar due to accumulated course credits from AP or IB or community college courses, along with credits from their first semester at USF if you are trying to enroll in a Spring semester course.  Even if you have in excess of 32 credits applied toward graduation, you may still be able to enroll in a FYS course.  If you think this applies to you, please contact your Webtrack Adviser or your CASA Academic Success Coach <>.)


Fall 2023 Courses

Prerequisite Writing course - Rhetoric and Composition

The RHET 195 First Year Seminars below are available to students who have placed into RHET 195 through Directed Self Placement (DSP).  If you placed into a different RHET course (e.g. RHET 110, RHET 106, RHET 106N), you should register for that class, and choose a different First-Year Seminar.  As noted above, these RHET 195 courses do not fulfill your USF Core A2 Written Communication requirement, but serve as a prerequisite to a course, such as RHET 120, that will.

RHET 195-03 Language and Power

CRN # 40082
Brian Dempster
Tues. & Thu. 12:45–2:30 p.m.

Language and Power examines rhetorics of nationalism and social justice--and the ways in which language and power are entwined. We will analyze a diverse range of texts (nonfiction essays, poems, stories, films, laws, photographs, music): who writes these texts, for what purpose, and with what agenda? How do we better understand past events through the lens of historical context and also current perspectives? How does inclusion/exclusion of certain viewpoints and voices impact how we view history and the collective narrative of America? With a focus on how rhetoric and power structures have affected (and continues to affect) Asian Pacific Americans and other marginalized groups, we will link these discourses through an intersectional framework and see how writers, artists, and everyday people address issues of cultural (mis)representation and advocate for social justice. Together with guest speakers and virtual trips to local sites, we will critically discuss language and power, interact with primary and secondary sources, and craft papers in response to these course themes. [This course is a pre-requisite for Core A2 fulfillment courses, such as RHET 120.]

RHET 195-04 Women, Rhetoric, & Power

CRN # 40083
Melisa Garcia
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 2:15–3:20 p.m.

What does it mean to speak? What does it mean to be silent? What does it mean to be heard? From antiquity to present day, women orators, writers, and rhetoricians have demonstrated a particular interest in addressing these questions. In this course, we will examine the work of numerous women rhetoricians, poets, and writers to explore how they have communicated their arguments in the political, artistic, and personal spheres. So too, we will explore the work of male thinkers and writers who have used “ventriloquism” to experiment with the liberated female voice. Finally, we will evaluate whether the rhetorical practices of women have something to lend to the broader social justice movement in its attempt to ensure rights for those who historically have been rendered voiceless and powerless. [This course is a pre-requisite for Core A2 fulfillment courses, such as RHET 120.]

RHET 195-05 Writing about Human Rights

CRN # 42109
Julie Sullivan
Tue. & Thu. 9:55–11:40 a.m

What does it mean to have rights? Do all humans share equal access to these rights? And, if they do, then why do we see human rights violations go unpunished throughout the world, including in our own country? In this class we will explore the sometimes broad and overwhelming topic of Human Rights through the different forms of media available. Based on timeliness and interest, the course will explore Human Rights issues in areas such as: Criminal Justice, Employment, Education, Gender equity, Healthcare, Hunger, and Immigration. This class requires all involved to be learners, teachers, and individuals willing to voice concerns and create awareness. How you choose to vocalize will be up to you. [This course is a pre-requisite for Core A2 fulfillment courses, such as RHET 120.]

RHET 195-06 Language and Power

CRN # 42482
Nicole Gonzales Howell
Tue. & Thu. 2:40–4:25 p.m.

Language and Power examines rhetorics of nationalism and social justice -- and the ways in which language and power are entwined. We will analyze a diverse range of texts (nonfiction essays and podcasts, fashion/style narratives, stories, films, laws, photographs, music, and more): who writes these texts, for what purpose, and with what agenda? How does inclusion/exclusion of certain viewpoints and voices impact how we view history and the collective narrative of America? With a focus on how rhetoric and power structures have affected (and continues to affect) Latinx communities and other marginalized groups, we will link these discourses through an intersectional framework and see how writers, artists, and everyday people address issues of cultural (mis)representation and advocate for social justice. Together with guest speakers and virtual trips to local sites, we will critically discuss language and power, interact with primary and secondary sources, and craft papers in response to these course themes. [This course is a pre-requisite for Core A2 fulfillment courses, such as RHET 120.]



Core A1 - Public Speaking

RHET 195-02 Sports Talk

CRN # 40080
John Ryan
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 10:30-11:35 a.m.

Sports Talk uses the world of sports to investigate public discourse. You will use the rhetoric of athletes, coaches, owners, and fans as a springboard into the study of public speech and public communication. The class emphasizes a critical approach as students immerse themselves in the history of sports communication from the early twentieth century up to the present. Students will have the opportunity to explore the historical and social changes that have been inspired by our national fascination with sports. We will visit local venues and examine what these facilities say about our priorities and our values.

RHET 195-02 Podcasts: Eloquentia & Audio

CRN # 40081
Phil Choong
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 2:15–3:20 p.m.

Podcasts are shared, downloaded, and listened to by millions of people each year. Media companies and indie creators alike are attracted to the medium for its accessibility and ability to start conversations on a wide range of public issues. In this class, students analyze the ways that podcasting operates as a mode of public speaking in the 21st century and learn to produce their own rhetorical podcasts. We examine the persuasive appeals and motivational strategies of podcasts, as well as the cultural and digital contexts in which they circulate. Weekly hands-on exercises develop skills in speaking, listening, writing, and audio production that can move audiences. The semester culminates in students producing their own podcast episode about an issue of personal and local significance.

Core C1 - Literature

CMPL 195-01 Literature of the Child

CRN # 42021
Shawn Doubiago
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 10:30-11:35 a.m.

What is it about childhood that leaves such an indelible mark on our lives? And how has growing up been perceived in other eras and cultures? In this course you are invited to consider these questions and more by examining literary representations of childhood in various genres such as poems, short stories, plays, the Bildungsroman, the memoir, and novels. In our quest to better understand the role childhood plays in our lives, and the ways childhood has been perceived historically, we will also examine  parent-child relationships, family dynamics, society, culture, history, trauma, and theories that affect our early experiences. We will trace these issues in global literature, film, and culture. [Also meets Cultural Diversity Core Requirement]

CMPL 195-02 "Voyage to Italy" - Italian Literature and Film

CRN # 42144
Sara Marinelli
Mon. & Wed. 6:30–8:15 p.m.

Italy often enters people’s imagination as a romantic idealized place filled with the intense beauty of its art, architecture, nature, and the rich variety of its culture. This course is an opportunity to discover that beauty and take a voyage to Italy through the route of its literature and cinema. We will explore and discuss modern and contemporary urban and popular culture through the films of great Italian directors, from Neo-Realism to today, and we will be captivated by the struggle and resilience of many unforgettable characters in the literature of contemporary authors. We will also connect with pop culture, discover aspects of Italian heritage in San Francisco, and attend events at the Italian Cultural Institute.

ENGL 195-01 Science Fiction

CRN #40361
Patrick Schwieterman
Mon., Wed., & Fri. 1:00–2:05 p.m.

Science fiction has long been seen as an “escapist” literature that actively avoids engagement with the most pressing concerns of contemporary life. However, the futuristic or extra-planetary settings of the genre actually offer writers opportunities to explore abiding concerns through “thought experiments” that heighten the tensions implicit in a given topic. For example, Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? explores the nature of humanness through the dilemma of a police detective charged with hunting down and “retiring” androids who are identical to humans in nearly every respect. Besides Dick’s work, the syllabus will feature texts by Octavia Butler, Ray Bradbury, Pat Murphy, Naomi Kritzer, Mercurio D. Rivera, James Patrick Kelly, Ian McDonald, and others. We’ll also make trips off-campus for movies and readings by science fiction authors.

ENGL 195-02 Shakespeare

CRN #40363
Carolyn Brown
Tue. & Thu. 4:35–6:20 p.m

The class concentrates on an appreciation of the literary and cultural greatness of Shakespeare, with the primary focus being on reading eight of his plays. We will look at the literary, historical, social, and cultural influences on his plays and his recognition of the decline of medieval values and the beginning of the modern world.  We will explore the moral judgments he leads his readers to formulate on topics such as  misogyny; domestic violence; the battle of the sexes; the marriage market; male anxieties about women; female empowerment; prejudice based on race, gender, and religious orientation; political "ethics"; social conformity; cross-dressing; fortune versus love; justice and the legal system; and envy and jealousy.  The class will enjoy several extra-curricular events: a visit to both the Rare Book Room in Gleeson Library and the Shakespeare Garden in Golden Gate Park; and a performance by the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival Touring Company.

FREN 195-01 A Season in the Congo

CRN #40530
Karen Bouwer
Mon. & Wed. 4:45–6:25 p.m

Street children (shegue), students, gang members (kuluna), child soldiers (kadogo), school kids, child “sorcerers”, charcoal-makers (makala): Contemporary representations of the Democratic Republic of the Congo abound with youthful characters whose lives have been shaped by historical forces in distant and recent pasts. Like many the world over, their futures have been foreclosed by economic, political, and environmental uncertainties. But the Congolese are masters of the art(s) of survival and they have much to teach us about the globalized world we all live in. Come and spend a season in the Congo to explore how youth strive to create oppositional practices and spaces of freedom for themselves and others. We will bring literary texts into thought-provoking dialogue with other arts including photography, film, painting, and music, both inside and outside the classroom, and enjoy enriching conversations with Bay Area Congolese. [Also meets Cultural Diversity Core Requirement]

SPAN 195-01 Latinx Art & Community in SF

CRN # 40580
Karina Hodoyan
Mon. & Wed. 4:45–6:25 p.m

This is an introductory survey course that examines the roots of Latin/x American literary and visual art in the San Francisco Bay Area with a focus on how the community responds in times of crisis: colonization and invasion, booms and busts, earthquakes, and pandemics. We will study the role art and language played in imagining and documenting the history of Latinx communities, from the Missions to modern-day San Francisco. A special focus will be on Latinx social movements as constituting a key part of the legacy of this city, particularly how artists and the community have responded to COVID-19. The course includes special lectures by artists and writers, and visits to museums, theatre, or films in the city. [Also meets Cultural Diversity Core Requirement]

Core D1 - Philosophy

PHIL 195-01 What is Wisdom?

CRN # 40817
Tom Cavanaugh
Tues. & Thu. 8:00–9:45 a.m.

Literally, philosophy means the love of wisdom. So, philosophy is about our desire for knowledge, like wisdom. What is wisdom? Who is wise? Does wisdom make us happy? Is ignorance bliss? Why pursue wisdom? Wanting wisdom, yet not sure of what it is, we will ask these and other questions: does suffering lead to wisdom? does wisdom comfort the wise person? does the wise person comfort others? are science and technology wisdom? do they require wisdom to be used well? how does your USF education fit into a search for wisdom? is wisdom worth pursuing? We will ask these questions relying on Socrates, Confucius, Descartes, and the French existentialist Simone Weil; by reading the Tao Te Ching and novels such as Brave New World; by watching movies like The Matrix and Gattaca. We will also visit the San Francisco Asian Art Museum to see fascinating ancient objects related to Confucianism.

Core D2 - Theology & Religious Studies

THRS 195-01 Transcendence in Film & Fiction

CRN # 41002
Aysha Hidayatullah
Tue. & Thu. 2:40–4:25 p.m.

What could punk rockers, feminists, superheroes, and Malcolm X all have in common? Islam! In mainstream America Muslims are often perceived as excessively or fanatically “religious” – a perception driven by a misunderstanding of the concept of transcendence in Islam. To remedy this misunderstanding, we will watch films and read fiction that will help us examine Muslims’ search for transcendence, including in contexts of marginality and revolutionary protest. Texts will include the Muslim punk novel The Taqwacores and the superhero comic book series The 99; films will include Enemy of the Reich and Malcolm X. We will ask: how do Muslims live fully in this world, immersed in the struggles of worldly life and earthly justice, but through a consciousness of the otherworldly and unfathomable? How does everyday life become the conduit for participating in ultimate reality?

Core D3 - Ethics

PHIL 195-02 When East Meets West

CRN # 40818
David Kim
Tues. & Thu. 9:55–11:40 a.m

This seminar introduces students to ethical traditions in Asia and the West, and how to compare and integrate these traditions. It also offers an introduction to various ethical dimensions of East-West encounter, especially across the last century and with special attention paid to U.S.-Asia relations. We will begin by addressing various elements of moral philosophy in Aristotle, Kant, and Mill, and the ethics of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism. The course will then investigate through film and philosophy the modern encounter between various Asian and Western peoples and the ethical orientations they brought to the bear in the battlefield, the halls of congress, courts of law, the home, the construction of identity, the transformation of culture, and other aspects of social life.

Core E - Social Sciences

INTD 195-01 Law and Order: San Francisco

CRN # 42163
Ed Lenert
Tues. 8:00-11:00 a.m. & Thu. 8:00–9:55 a.m.

Drawing on the famous TV series​ Law & Order ​as inspiration, this first-year seminar will focus on the criminal and civil justice systems and will feature carefully selected readings plus regular field trips to local state and federal courtrooms to attend arraignments, hearings, trials, and sentencing. A significant goal of the course is to help you discuss, analyze and write about social justice as practiced in our society and as depicted in movies and television. In addition, you will be exposed to a social science methodology and a language for describing the relationships between law and social justice. You will be given the opportunity to make first-hand observations about the criminal and civil justice systems, and speak to participants through informal meetings or guest lectures. Optionally, you may elect to participate in the SF Police Department’s Ride-Along program, where citizens accompany officers as they go about their daily operations.

ENVA 195-01 Golden Gate Park

CRN # 42022
David Silver
Tue. & Thu. 9:55–11:40 a.m

This class considers Golden Gate Park as a lens and site to explore the environmental history of what we now call San Francisco. We begin by learning about different groups' relationships to Bay Area nature and natural resources, including native Ohlone people, Spanish missionaries, Mexican ranchers, and gold-hungry 49ers. Next, with research visits to Gleeson Library's Donohue Rare Book Room, San Francisco Public Library, and UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library, we trace the development of Golden Gate Park and investigate key eras like the 1894 Midwinter Fair and WPA projects built in the 1930s. Having considered the past, we turn our attention to the present and future and examine contemporary uses of the park and develop ideas and initiatives that could make it more inclusive, diverse, and sustainable. Be ready for field trips. With the park literally two blocks from USF, we will explore as much of it as possible, from the panhandle to Ocean Beach, and take deep dives into the Japanese Tea Garden, the de Young Museum and Cafe, and the National AIDS Memorial Grove. If we're lucky, we may even spot a coyote or two.

Core F - Visual and Performing Arts

ART 195-01 Exploring Asian Art in San Francisco

CRN # 41105
Jon Soriano
Thurs. 12:45 – 4:25 p.m.

San Francisco has long been well known for its rich collections of Asian art, accessible at sites such as the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, the Asian Art Museum, and the streets of Chinatown.  This class provides an introduction to this art, and asks several questions about it:  How did all this art get here?  What relevance do these works have to the surrounding community?  What ideological and material factors are involved in owning and displaying this art?  We will explore Asian art in San Francisco through these questions and others by going on multiple site visits, looking closely at art, reading a range of texts, independent research, analysis, and group discussion. [Also meets Cultural Diversity or “CD” Core Requirement]

ART 195-02 Art in Multicultural San Francisco

CRN # 41106
Jessica Snow
Fri. 11:45 a.m. – 3:25 p.m.

San Francisco is a global city in which you can find thriving art communities and cultural activities in every neighborhood. This class will provide you with an introduction to the city through the lens of the visual arts, and you will get a taste of the rich diversity and socially-engaged artwork to be found in the Bay Area’s arts venues. We will visit museums and other art sites throughout the semester; these field trips will provide you with first-hand knowledge of the vast array of exhibitions happening currently both in institutions and on the street.  In addition to seeing art firsthand, you’ll be keeping a sketchbook with weekly drawing assignments. Further engagement with the art experiences will happen through readings, discussions, and writing assignments.

ART 195-03 Sacred Art in San Francisco

CRN # 42493
Fri. 11:45 a.m. – 3:25 p.m.

This course examines the art and architecture of San Francisco’s diverse religious communities that have settled in the city over the last 150 years, including Christian (Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant), Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, Taoist, Shinto, and indigenous traditions that represent the multicultural heritage of the city’s native and immigrant populations. Students will visit San Francisco museums, galleries, churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and historical centers throughout the semester to study how religious heritage has helped make San Francisco one of the most dynamic and culturally diverse cities in the world. Students will meet once a week for 3 hours and 40 minutes, which will enable the class to leave campus for site visits throughout San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area.

CHIN 195-01 Global Chinese Cinema

CRN # 40513
Wei Yang Menkus
Tue. & Thu. 9:55–11:40 a.m.

This course examines Chinese cinema in a global age, with particular focus on the transnational contexts of production, circulation and reception. Charting the cinematic developments from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the Chinese diaspora since the 1970s, we investigate the role of film in constructing the notion of nation-state, and explore the shifting dynamics between culture, politics, and economics within historical and geopolitical discourses. Class discussion, following the weekly screening, will revolve around themes, stylistics, and genres as represented through film. [Also meets Cultural Diversity or “CD” Core Requirement]

DANC 195-01 Dance in San Francisco

CRN # 40773
Megan Nicely
Tue. & Thu. 2:40–4:25 p.m.

San Francisco is home to one of the most vibrant and diverse dance communities in the country. Exploring the range of movement styles, dance artists, companies, and organizations at work in the Bay Area provides us with a unique opportunity to understand the vanguard of contemporary performance and the many historical and cultural threads that underlie these practices. By participating in a range of movement classes both on and off campus, attending performances, learning from guest artists, and engaging in both academic and creative movement activities, students will discover the ways dance both supports and challenges dominant cultural values, narratives, and ideals of its time. No prior dance experience is necessary.

MUS 195-01 Opera in San Francisco

CRN # 40759
Pamela Kamatani
Tues. & Thu. 12:45–2:30 p.m.

Opera: where you can do anything so long as you sing it! This course explores the world of opera and the issues presented in (or hidden under) beautiful singing. We will learn about this often extravagant art form and what it says about the society in and for which it was created. We will deepen our discussion by attending three performances at the San Francisco Opera, one of the top three companies in the country. In class we will discuss the readings and bring the issues up to date through our own experiences, and we will study and view/listen to portions of operas from 1600s Italy to 21st century USA. No knowledge of music necessary, only curiosity, interest in challenging deep-seated assumptions, and openness to new ideas. Readiness to have fun a plus!

THTR 195-01 Performing Identity: Theater and Social Issues

CRN # 40793
Paul Stojsavljevic-Flores
Tues. & Thu. 12:45–2:30 p.m.

Performing Identity will focus on how theater artists represent social and cultural issues that intersect with their individual lives. We will develop guiding concepts to understand the intersection of race and theater, identity and cultural tradition, Hip-Hop and local politics.  We will examine the artistic, social and political forces that have inspired theater artists to develop innovative artistic techniques and new theatrical forms.  We will ask, what role does theater play in presenting identity, and in representing different communities?  What kind of theater teaches people how to impact society?  What theater organizes movements for peace and justice, inspires people to seek the truth about herstory and history?  Our course culminates with individual presentations of research projects or short performances that reflect student interest on a social, political issue or cultural identity in relationship to a theatrical artist or work of art.